Why are space heaters dangerous? What you need to know!
December through March are peak months for home fire deaths. While space heaters can be a quick way to heat up a chilly room, that warmth comes with a BIG warning label: Each year, space heaters are involved in 79% of fatal home heating fires. As temperatures drop, here are 10 things you need to know:
- Give the heater some space. Keep your space heater at least THREE feet away from anything flammable. That means clothes and blankets, stacks of newspapers, furniture, rugs and even walls. Allow at least three feet of open space on each side of the unit.
- Never (ever) use an extension cord with a space heater. To prevent a fire, never plug a high-wattage space heater into an extension cord or multi-outlet strip.
- Opt for quality. When shopping for a space heater, select a unit that has all the latest safety features and the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) label of approval. Look for cool-to-the-touch housings and automatic shutoff features that turn the unit off if it’s tipped over or overheating. Some units will automatically shut off if their infrared sensors detect a person or object that is too close to the heater panel—making them desirable choices for households with kids or pets.
- Never leave a space heater “on” in an unoccupied room. Always turn off a space heater when you leave the room and before going to bed. Throw on some extra blankets and unplug the unit as an extra precaution.
- Size matters. Before purchasing a space heater, check the label to see if it is the appropriate size for the area you want to heat.
- Make sure your house can handle it. Space heaters use a lot of electricity — as much as fifteen 100-watt light bulbs. This can be too much for older houses with old wires and electrical circuits. When wires get overheated, fires can also start inside the walls where they are hard to spot. If the circuit breaker trips, don’t plug it back in.
- Keep space heaters away from water. Like any electrical device, they pose a shock hazard. To help prevent shocks, avoid using space heaters in rooms where spills and moisture build-ups are likely such at bathrooms and kitchens.
- Safety first. Check your heaters regularly – look for frayed wires and remove dust accumulation on grates, grills, coils and other elements of the heater
- Hot, hot, hot. Some parts of the heater can become really hot. Children, seniors and pets are especially vulnerable to getting burned.
Finally, don’t rely totally on space heaters to heat your home. They’re designed to supplement a central heating strategy – not replace it. Make sure every room in which you plan to use a space heater has a working smoke alarm and that your house has a carbon monoxide alarm.